Rusk County Loblolly Pine

Historical Period: 20th Century (1900 & Later)
Historical Topic: Odds & Ends
County: Rusk
Public Access: No

This ancient resident of East Texas is living proof that things do get better with age. Scientists have recently discovered that the biggest (oldest) trees not only increase their growth rates as they age, but they sequester more carbon. The take-home message from this surprise finding? Bigger, older trees play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. In Texas, the elder statesman that towers high above the others is Rusk County’s Champion Loblolly Pine. Only a handful of venerable giants had survived into 1992, when Fred Spivey purchased the land the pine grew on; he acquired it knowing he was “making an investment in saving a part of nature’s history.” The champion tree’s identification as the largest of its kind in the Texas Big Tree Registry also helps ensure its protection and continued longevity.

At one time, this conifer was one of many growing in a mature forest near Mount Enterprise, but heavy logging in the area took its toll. Today, the majority of commercial timber growing and processing takes place in the vast Pineywoods region. Historically, big trees have often been exploited for commercial lumber interests. When Spivey purchased his property, the majestic loblolly pine stood as the lone survivor—the others were previously removed to sawmills or pulp mills. The intense harvesting provided little protection, so Spivey planted additional timber around the tree. Surrounded now by a younger loblolly pine plantation—like a general flanked by his troops—the evergreen giant takes on almost mythical proportions.

Loblolly pine is the fastest growing of all the southern pines, with the potential to reach 60 feet in only 20 years, and they have been known to ultimately grow to 140 feet tall. When it was last measured, the Texas Champion Loblolly Pine was 130 feet tall with a 165-inch circumference and an average crown spread of 49 feet—giving it an impressive Big Tree Index score of 307 points. Spivey is fortunate to also own the second largest loblolly pine in the state, growing on a different tract of land nearby.